Friday, April 20, 2007

Baking is a science, my foot!

I have always enjoyed baking because the recipes tell you exactly what to do. If you're careful to follow the instructions as written and not make your own interpretations of what you think they might mean, if you don't make unsubstitutable substitutions or make the mistake of stirring when you were supposed to whip, it always comes out like it is supposed to. My first souffle never hinted at falling, and ever since I got my stand mixer my meringues and lady fingers have never failed me.

Then I tasted the Co-op's Morning Glory muffins. Dark and flat, filled with innumerable fruits, this looked like something anybody could make. Of course, I didn't have a recipe. I didn't have someone else holding my hand as I measured out the flour and the sugar, nobody to tell me how many eggs. I knew I had made fruit breads that had come out with a similar texture (I am now remembering that it's oil that does it), but I couldn't remember which ones and where I had those recipes--I am just that organized--so I just decided to use whatever I had on hand that might come together to make a muffin. I figured that the worst that could happen was that they would come out like the co-op muffins (really, who sells a flat-topped muffin).

My muffin project just happened to come along at a time when I was also trying to clear some cabinet space, and taking up space in that cabinet were a can each of sweet potatoes and sweetened condensed milk (I was also faced with a impractically stocked refrigerator that was somehow very full and yet empty of milk). I drained and mashed the sweet potatoes and mixed in most of the can of sweetened condensed milk. I chopped up some dried figs and crystallized ginger, mixed in some raisins, and stirred in some chopped walnuts and pecans. I poured these into the milk mixture as I chopped them and spiced that mixture with some freshly ground green cardamom, allspice, and cloves. I grated in some nutmeg and may have sprinkled in cinnamon. A bit of salt and some molasses had gone into that mixture by this point as well. I mixed in two eggs then just dumped in what looked like a decent enough amount of flour. I sprinkled a heaping teaspoon of baking powder onto the flour and stirred it into flour before mixing the flour down into the wet mixture. It looked like muffin batter, so I poured it into mini muffin pans with paper liners and baked them up for about ten to twelve minutes. In the ultimate throw-caution-to-the-wind baking, I never really looked at the temperature of the oven--I just turned the knob until it felt like it had gone as far as it usually does (I think I caught a peek of the oven thermometer and saw that it was close to 375).

They ended up with as much pale muffin top as slightly crispy, dark muffin bottom. I only wish I had mixed them atop my scale and taken notes of the increasing weight along the way so I knew exactly how much of everything I used. I guess I don't deserve to recreate them.